As the new director of Online Programs at the Neag School of Education, it’s Jae-Eun Joo’s job to ensure students taking online classes—or pursing an entirely online degree—have an experience as rich, educational and meaningful as those who sit in traditional UConn classrooms.
Joo’s role is to “integrate effective pedagogy with new technologies” she said, creating interactive online learning environments that enact best research and practices proven to help students learn most effectively and improve their performances. “It’s both a conceptual and practical role that has me working very closely with faculty to identify how to best use emerging technologies to convey the content and the pedagogy they want to provide,” said Joo, Ed.D., who’s spent much of the past 20 years as a online education researcher, teacher, and consultant, designing, managing and evaluating online programs for the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Open University in the United Kingdom, World Bank, and other organizations. “We also want to provide students with the best possible—and an enjoyable—learning experience.”
A Neag associate professor, Joo also teaches classes like the graduate-level Interactive Learning Environments and serves as the Neag liaison to the University of Connecticut’s growing, multidisciplinary e-Campus program, which currently offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate online classes, including Educational Leadership, Educational Psychology and others taught by Neag faculty.
Joo’s priorities include helping Neag faculty develop new online courses and programs; expanding Neag’s online degree offerings; and streamlining and strengthening Neag’s three existing online programs in the Gifted and Talented Education (MA & 6th year), the Certificate in Postsecondary Disability Services, and the Educational Technology (MA).
She is also be leading and conducting research designed to advance and establish online and blended learning best practices, as well as disseminating findings to increase the Neag’s visibility in the field of online education. Joo has just received the Education Research Service Projects (ERSP) Award from the American Education Research Association (AERA) to create a participatory evaluation study on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program for Boston’s urban youth and their communities. Though some are still hesitant to embrace online learning, a U.S. Department of Education survey, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, found that students taught in well-constructed online courses learn as much or exceed, as well as interact with their professors as much, as those taught in face-to-face instruction (2010).
“One of my goals is to construct a common framework for Neag online programs, which will help alleviate some of the misconceptions and unease feeling about teaching and learning online. I’m going to be talking and reaching out to colleagues, alumni and students—potential students—to explain the innovative work we’re doing, show the benefits of online learning, and give people the education and encouragement they need to hopefully step out of their comfort zone and take a positive step into the online education world. It opens so many possibilities,” said Joo, who has a doctorate in learning and teaching and a master’s in human development and psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
One of the many benefits of online teaching, she added, is that it provides people with open access and flexible schedule to overcome physical disabilities, transportation issues and other challenges to earn a UConn degree that might otherwise not be possible. “Online courses and programs turn obstacles into opportunities,” Joo said, “which is one of the reasons that makes my job so exciting and rewarding.”
Down the road, she envisions the Neag School of Education at the center of a “online contents and resource superhighway,” providing Connecticut schools, libraries, teachers, administrators and others with research data, a best practice library, classroom help and the “many other much-needed supports and services that advance education and that Neag is known for. I’d love to build a connected, interactive, and robust online education platform that capitalizes on, and shares, all we’re doing to help teachers, education leaders, and their students.”